The Long Game

Progress re­ports on the games we just can’t quit, fea­tur­ing a lit­tle help from our friends in Stardew Val­ley


Fill­ing your day in Stardew Val­ley is easy. In­deed, the sheer va­ri­ety of this Har­vest Moon- a-like has been its great­est as­set: be­tween farm­ing, cooking, shop­ping, fish­ing, craft­ing, dun­geon-crawl­ing and ro­manc­ing the towns­folk, there’s al­ways some­thing to qui­etly cul­ti­vate, be it a crop of blue­ber­ries or a bur­geon­ing re­la­tion­ship. Two years on from its orig­i­nal re­lease, Eric Barone’s farm­ing sim of­fers even more to oc­cupy and soothe the fraz­zled mind.

Along­side ports to var­i­ous for­mats, a series of free up­dates has helped Stardew Val­ley grow. New items, build­ings, com­mu­nity events and char­ac­ter in­ter­ac­tions have pro­vided plenty of rea­sons to re­visit your farm. But start­ing afresh now presents even more op­tions. Now, you can take your pick of five farm types – stan­dard, river­land, for­est, hill-top and wilder­ness – each with their own char­ac­ter­is­tics. The for­est farm might have less space than the stan­dard farm, but its for­ag­ing ben­e­fits make it sim­ple to earn quick cash early on. The wilder­ness farm is dan­ger­ous for in­ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers, but old (farm) hands will de­light in rare re­sources in their front yard.

There’s more scope than ever to or­gan­ise your farm pre­cisely the way you like it, then – which is why the dis­rup­tive re­cent ad­di­tion of mul­ti­player is such a stroke of ge­nius. While the me­chan­ics of co-op re­main vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal to sin­gle­player, you can in­vite up to three friends into an ex­ist­ing save by build­ing a cabin on your farm for a small fee. Al­ter­na­tively, you can start a new co-op save with pre-se­lected cab­ins, even al­ter­ing profit mar­gins to bal­ance out the ex­tra help.

And what a dif­fer­ence it makes. In the early days of sin­gle­player, our pal­try en­ergy me­ter is ex­hausted al­most im­me­di­ately; with a part­ner, we’re a well-oiled ma­chine from the get-go, with the shared labour mean­ing we’ve got land cleared, crops planted and enough wood to fix the bridge over to the beach by the end of the third day. The pac­ing is far less frus­trat­ing.

Still, the risk of be­com­ing too work­man­like is there: with play­ers shar­ing re­sources, not com­mu­ni­cat­ing prop­erly can re­sult in some nasty may­on­naise-based dis­agree­ments. And af­ter­wards, a mo­ment of clar­ity – that Stardew Val­ley has al­ways been about es­cape, not ef­fi­ciency, and that any­one yelling at their mates about their parsnip yield may as well pack it up and go work for Joja Corp. A re­lax­ing, han­gout-friendly mul­ti­player mode is a won­der­ful way, then, to quickly get to the heart of Stardew Val­ley: a game about not liv­ing to work, but work­ing to live, and about fill­ing your days with the things that re­ally mat­ter.

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